Health and Human Rights Training materials from PHM South Africa
1. What are Human Rights?
Human rights are:
Something we can claim from society
Claims that are legitimate (not just anything)
Claims for social needs as well as material resources
Needs that are fundamental to being human
Limit what the state CAN and CAN'T do to individuals, groups
Also, prescribes what the state SHOULD do for us
General or universal
Codified in law - national / international
2. Can rights ever be limited?
Rights can be restrictedonly if one right interferes with another person or
Certain rights can NEVER be restricted
Right to a fair trial
Right to be free of torture, etc
Civil/political rights (freedoms) are indivisible from socio-economic
3. What does it mean to have a right?
Rights imply a claim; it is more than charity - the state has an OBLIGATION to
enable you to realize your rights
With rights go responsibilities
You cannot enjoy right of access to health care if (e.g.) clinic is too far
For every right ® there is a corresponding duty
Usually, it is government that has the duty, but increasingly, private
corporations are regarded as having rights responsibilities
4. How is government a bona-fide duty bearer?
Government has four kinds of human rights obligations:
To RESPECT your rights by NOT passing laws or having programs that violate your
To PROTECT your rights from other people who might violate your rights (e.g.,
an exploitative employer)
To take ACTIVE measures to FULFILL your rights - by budgeting implementing
programs and passing laws
To PROMOTE rights by enabling people to know about how to realize their rights
5. Government obligations in line with international human rights law
If governments sign an international treaty, they indicate they agrees with the
principle and aim of the treaty, but they are not bound by that treaty
If governments ratify an international treaty, they are bound by that treaty
Budget for implementation
Put in place programs that put the treaty into effect.
6. Are human rights just for use by lawyers?
Human rights can be used:
To hold governments accountable
To shape government policies
Get redress and compensation for people suffering violations
Create space for Civil Society Mobilization
7. What can constitutions say about health as a right?
Broadly speaking, it can talk about 2 kinds of things:
1. Health care: Access to health services, emergency care, etc
2. Conditions we need to be healthy.
8. Health Rights Provisions in a Typical Bill of Rights
It should make reference to different ways in which the right to health should
Access to health care services…(progressively realized)
No-one can be refused emergency treatment
Right to Life
An Environment not harmful to health
Access to sufficient food and water
Access to adequate housing
Bodily integrity; freedom and security of persons
Children - basic nutrition & health care services, shelter
Dignity, equality, non-discrimination
Access to information
Freedom from Torture
9. Health as a Human Right – National level
Progressive realization: The State doesnot have to put in place expensive
services it cannot afford, or provide all forms of health care to those who
need it, but it must say how it is going to increase its provision of health
care over time.
Right to Participation and Rights to Information are instrumental for achieving
10. Health as Human Right – International level
The United Nations defines the right to health as follows:
The ICESCR speaks of “… the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest
attainable standard of physical and mental health…”
Health is closely related and dependent on other rights (food, water, housing,
work…) illustrating the recognition of the social determinants of health.
Not only “timely and appropriate health care” is required for meeting the right
to health but also the underlying determinants of health: i.e., all relevant
services, facilities and resources, not just health care
11. How do we know if right to health is met?
The United Nations defines the right to health as being measurable in terms of:
Availability: functioning public facilities, programs, in sufficient quantity
Acceptability: respect culture, ethics
Quality: medically appropriate, scientific quality
The People’s Health Movement and the “Right to Health Campaign”
Who is the People’s Health Movement?
The People’s Health Movement is a global network of civil society groups,
researchers, trade unions, activists and workers involved in health. PHM
believes that “The true indicator of the state of a nation is the health of its
people”, in that the health of a nation is a reflection of enlightened and
equitable social policies, compassionate communities, a caring leadership and a
social system based on the indisputable value of human life. In short, we are
committed to health as a right.
“Health is a social, economic and political issue and above all a fundamental
human right. Inequality, poverty, exploitation, violence and injustice are at
the root of ill-health and the deaths of poor and marginalized people.”
People’s Charter for Health
We are concerned about the single-minded focus on ‘growing the economy’ as the
“cure” for all our ills. The time frame for that to benefit our people is too
slow. People need food now, clean water now, a place to sleep now and access to
health care now. We believe that the economy does not come before the people,
rather, economic development should be a tool to benefit the people.
PHM has proposed the launch of aGlobal Campaign on the Right to Healthand local
circles are launching this campaign in already 16 countries. For further
information on PHM global please go to www.phmovement.org
Why Do We Need a Right to Health Campaign?
The health of people worldwide and in this country is getting worse. They are
burdened with four epidemics of disease including (1) diseases of so called
‘developing’ countries, like childhood diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and
measles (2) emerging chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and
heart disease, (3) a high burden of injuries and violence, and, not least, (4)
the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is a huge problem worldwide.
Who Should Be Involved in the Right to Health Campaign?
Health and illness are not just the result of healthcare services. They result
from policies, both local and global, that affect people’s access to healthy
food, clean water, decent sanitation, adequate housing/shelter, steady
employment and proper health information. In short, our poor health status is a
reflection of a ‘diseased society’, one in which insufficient priority is given
to human well-being.
Because health is determined by so many factors outside the health services, we
need a campaign led by civil society, including many sectors required for the
health of communities such as health, water, land, housing, education, labor,
etc. In fact, PHM has long been working with NGOs and social movements in
other sectors that seek to secure healthier environments, workplaces, and
What is the Purpose of the Right to Health Campaign?
To raise awareness worldwide of what constitutes health: not only health
services but also the range of basic services and relationships that are the
determinants of good health
To strengthen civil society organizations and build strong partnerships with
To create a platform for health workers to discuss working conditions and other
To enable communities and ordinary people to have a meaningful say in the
development, implementation and monitoring of policies.
To enable local organizations to link with international networks of
like-minded health groups, building international solidarity and capacity to
advance the right to health.
To give meaning to the right to participation by giving people a voice.
To urge government to create a sustainable health system that gives substance
to recent charters and declarations.
What is the “Right to Health”?
As part of many countries’ constitutional commitment to realizing rights, the
promotion of the right to health is a key obligation for the state. Health is
one of a number of socio-economic rights, all dependent on each other and
essential for human well-being and development. Unfortunately, the world over,
there is a large gap between the human rights provisions in the constitution
and what is happening on the ground.
A campaign that focuses on the right to health will help to identify system
failures, secure redress for those unfairly treated, prevent future abuses from
taking place and show case positive experiences. We believe a Right to Health
campaign can build a health system that helps all people realize their human
What can the Right to Health Campaign Do?
The Right to Health Campaign can draw from the extremely successful campaign in
India where public hearings, often in very simple community settings, gave
community members the chance to give testimony of their experiences of the
health services and of the violation of their right to health. It can also
embark in doing a right to healthcare assessment using the PHM Assessment Guide
found in the PHM website (www.phmovement.org following the link to ‘campaigns’).
The campaign will be driven by NGOs, with key leaders as patrons, and
supplemented with media coverage (radio, print, TV). We will solicit testimony
from ordinary beneficiaries who experienced violations of their right to health
as well as positive experiences that advance the right to health. Activities
Hearings & testimonies, both of violations and of positive experiences in
realizing the right to health from users of health care, community members,
health workers and others.
Carrying out a RTH assessment as per the PHM Guidelines followed by a national
workshop to present the findings and.
Surveys of working conditions, staff morale, motivation and human resource
Materials development on the ‘Right to Health’ in the form of pamphlets,
Education regarding the right to health and the broader determinants of health;
Discussing progress on the Right to Health campaign in each country.
Research and Analysis – to monitor accountability and significant improvements
or lack thereof.
We are especially interested in working in the following areas to promote the
right to health:
Children, the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable groups
Transport and obstacles for access
Housing, land rights activism
Environmental issues: garbage collection; safe water and sanitation
Impact of alcohol on children and communities
The situation faced by Health Workers themselves and human resources in health
Right to information.
More information from